I own a fledgling charter-guide business on Prince of Wales Island, and I can tell you firsthand, my clients are looking to experience the fishing, marine life, wildlife and scenery that places such as Eleven Mile near Klawock and other wild Southeast Alaska areas offer. Small businesses depend on healthy, intact Tongass watersheds. The future of small business in Southeast depends on proper management of our forest.
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It is time to tell the Forest Service to change its timber-first policy and time to stop funding the extinction of old-growth forests for the sake of a few jobs. Once old growth is logged, it is gone forever. There is plenty of timber available off the existing road system for small operators.
How about investing in the future by replacing culverts, restoring critical deer habitat, thinning second growth, creating a market for second growth, managing existing and building new recreation facilities, while protecting high-value salmon-producing watersheds at the same time? There is almost no mention of restoration in the draft Tongass forest plan. A restoration economy can provide good-paying jobs and would be good for everyone, including fish and wildlife.
Folks on the Tongass have a unique opportunity to be proactive and learn from the past development mistakes in the Pacific Northwest. People need to understand what exists today in Southeast Alaska are the largest remaining intact stands of old-growth temperate rain forest in North America. That's invaluable on a global as well as local scale.